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California’s 1st Muslim Judge Speaks on Faith & Public Service

CALIFORNIA – The year 2018 concluded with California marking a historic milestone when it got its first Muslim judge amid a time of rising Islamophobia across North America, PBS reports.

The American Muslim Judge Halim Dhanidina was elevated to the state of California’s Courts of Appeal, making him the Pacific state’s most senior judge of the Muslim faith.

Being a Muslim, he carries an uncommon distinction in America’s courtrooms. One of very few among this country’s judges.

“I learned to deal with bigoted comments. Imagine what horrible things would happen if there aren’t any Muslim judges. By providing what I’m hoping is a counterexample, it’s sort of demystifies the subject,” he said.

A sizable number of Islamophobes and xenophobes judge Dhanidina for his religion and question his “role in a democracy”.

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However, in response, he says that “this kind of dissent is precisely what’s crucial in democratic life.”

Immigrant Success

The native of Chicago was born to Gujarati Indian parents who migrated to East Africa before traveling to the US.

As a father, Dhanidina spends much of the weekend with his children. But on working days as a judge, he wields great authority over other people’s lives and families.

“Talking to him about cases, it was obvious that he was light-years ahead of me in terms of trying cases, his ability to connect with juries,” judge Andrew Kim expressed about his Muslim colleague.

Dhanidina’s managers are confident that he came to take the lead in prosecuting the kinds of crime to which California’s Justice Department applies some no-nonsense labels.

“I didn’t think much about me being the first Muslim to be appointed to the bench in California. Then things changed when I was greeted with more than just congratulations,” Dhanidina explained.

He sees it as an important part of his job to go out among the diverse American community. He helps to preside at bridge-building events that link Los Angeles’ Jews with the city’s Muslims.


Dhanidina’s co-chair, Rachel Andres, a Jew, says: “He cares so much about the community, about Muslims, about Jews, about relationships, about fairness, about equality.”

“I’ve gotten to know him over the past 4-plus years when it’s been a pretty difficult time in America and I feel like we’ve had each other’s backs.”

In today’s US, the Muslim former lawyer uses his position to reach out in perhaps unexpected directions.

He has addressed a chapter of the conservative Federalist Society about the Islamic Shari`ah at the evangelical Christian Trinity Law School.